Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Home Made Fruit Leather

Greetings! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in such a long time. The summer got away from me,  and so did my garden.  It’s a shameful mess right now.  I am so looking forward to cooler weather this fall. That said, I have been making apple butter and fruit leather from my apples and I did harvest about 9 lbs of green grapes, dispite the dry weather. The chickens are growing up, I sold 4 pullets at $10 a piece to a friend at church.  We are getting ready to butcher our extra roosters, several of which were donated to us, as we live in the county and are alowed to raise them.  So without further delay, here is my fruit leather recipe, which is way better than “fruit” roll ups:

1)Fill your biggest stock pot half way with apples. (Peal and core them if you don’t have a foley food mill.) Fill the stock pot the rest of the way up with any other fruit you like. If you use all apples, you will have to add apple juice to it so that it doesn’t burn, apples just don’t have enough moisture. Give it a good stir and keep an eye on the temperature. It should only take 20 minutes or so to get soft. Mash it with a potato masher a little. 

2) If you didn’t peal the apples or if there are any other large seeds you want to remove, set up your foley food mill over the crockpot. Mill all the fruit, set your crock pot on low with the lid off. Cook for 8-12 hours. Feed all the peals and seeds to the chickens, or compost pile.

3)Taste your fuit/apple butter. Add sweetner to taste. Add cinnimon to taste. Honey is excellent in this recipe! I also like “Apple Pie Spice Mix” and “Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix”.

 4) Set your oven to warm/120 degrees. Wrap your cookie sheets with plastic wrap. Wax paper will not work!! Spoon some fuit butter on the plastic wrap, and spread out so it’s no more than 1/4 in thick. Place it in the oven with the door open a little, so moisture will excape. Every few hours rotate the trays, if you have more than one. Cook about 8-12 hours, until the fuit is dry and leathery.

 5) Peal the fruit from the plastic and set it on a cookie rack to dry on the counter. When it’s fully dry, powder it with corn starch. Roll it up or slice it into bite sized pieces and store in a zip lock bag in a dry cool place. 

 You can “cheat” by starting with store bought apple sause and start directly in the crockpot with any other fruit you want. You might want to run the whole fruits through a blender if you want a smooth consistency.  And please, if you do buy store applesause, get no sugar added! The whole point is to avoid high fructose corn syrup.

 If you want to cut costs, plant your own apple tree and berry bushes. Or buy fruit “seconds” at a farmer’s market. “Seconds” are the fruits that are over ripe, or just blemished. Sometimes you can get the seconds for free! I made my first batch with free second plums that I dropped in a bag and froze to make the fruit butter/leather several weeks later.

Berry Crazed!

Strawberry Harvest!

A few weeks back, a friend invited Julian and I over to pick strawberries which set off my new obsession with pies. We had a great visit, picked some strawberries, ate some delicious muffins, and let JJ skinny dip in the kiddie pool.   I plan on inviting her to my homestead when the blackberries are ripe to return the favor.  So that weekend I bought some Rhubarb from Sharon’s Natural Garden and made a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, and a Strawbery Poke Cake. I also discovered that you can make whip cream with a hand crank egg beater.  My pie went over very well Memorial Day weekend which we celebrated with friends at a Firefly Marathon (the TV show).  Last weekend Sharon’s Cherries were ripe and I bought two quarts of sour pie cherries from her and made my first cherry pie. I don’t normally like cherry pie, at least not the stuff you get at a dinner that probably came out of a can.   But I LOVE fresh cherry pie!  We have two dwarf pie cherry trees planted that we will one day make our own pies from!

Currently at the homestead, the raspberries are ripening! I have this great raspberry salad dressing recipe that I think is too good to share!  I’ve picked and frozen several pints, and hope to make some ice cream from them this weekend.  I also purchased a black raspberry plant from Sharon!

Julian Picking Strawberries

My mother’s favorite ice cream is black raspberry, which is not at all like red raspberries or blackberries.  When I was a kid, we use to stop at Richmond’s Dairy near Woodstown, NJ just for the black raspberry ice cream on the way to and from grandma’s house.   Anyway, black raspberries are hard to find in the store, so I’m delighted to add them to my homestead.  They produce small berries in the spring a little earlier than the red ones. Sharon might still have some frozen, if you are looking for them!

So, with all this pie making, I was thinking how fun it would be to have a “in season” pie business, where I grew as much of the fillings myself.  Currently we have raspberries, a few blueberries, lots of blackberries and apples. I also have all the eggs I could ever want!  In the future we will have cherries, plums, more apples, peaches, and pears. If we add to that sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, strawberries and rhubarb  we could make pies from May to November.  And I could bake them or freeze them to be baked at home.  The question is, where would I sell them?

Easy Peasy Frugal Double Roast Chickens

Lots of families, in a pinch buy rotisserie chickens from the store already cooked, and it is a much better option than fast food, but you can roast your own chickens at home very simply if you plan ahead.  First you have to have  a roasting pan with a lid,  so that you can easily roast two chickens at one time (one inside the lid),  which saves time and energy.  (Two birds with one stove, I mean stone! LOL)  You will also need about 5 minutes to prepare the chicken, and about 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook the chicken.  If your chicken is frozen (keep two in the extra freezer in case you have friends over) you will need to take them out of the freezer and leave it on the counter in a pan (or in a cold oven in case you have pets ) the night before (and the entire next day) you plan to cook it.  (Yes, I know this isn’t how we should thaw out chicken, but it does work. Instruct the first person to get home to cook them, or at least put them back in the fridge if they are totally thawed.) You will also need cooking spray, salt and pepper, and an empty sink.

  1. Spray the inside of the lid and base of the roasting pan. Also spray any racks, but they aren’t really necessary. Preheat the oven to 425
  2. Unwrap and rinse your birds, most chickens don’t have any organ meat packed inside, like a turkey does.
  3. Put your birds in the pan breast up, spray with cooking spray (faster than applying butter) and put a dash of salt and pepper over the top to taste.  Optional: some like to put a pealed whole onion inside the bird, but it’s not required.
  4. Put your birds in the center most rack on the oven, and cook for 30 minutes. Then turn the heat to 375 for 40 minutes.   When it’s done, cut into the space between the thigh and body and if the juices aren’t pink, it’s done.

Now you have 1 hour and ten minutes to work on side dishes! I mashed potatoes and gravy with a salad are a favorite in my family!

Why is this a frugal recipe? For one, whole chickens are the cheapest way to buy chicken. Locally I can get whole birds for $0.88 a lb. Two, you are cooking two at once, so you spend less money on electricity or gas.  You can use one roaster to cook two birds, so that saves money too.  And you have lots of left overs! Don’t for get to pop the carcass in the freezer to make chicken stock at a later date!

Enjoy!

Giving Up Angel Food Ministries

Julian helping me in the kitchen

Julian helping me in the kitchen...

It’s been two months since I’ve ordered food from AFM.  When I first quit my job to stay home with my son Julian and raise some chickens, I was freaked out about money. We started buying food from Angel Food Ministries, and it’s been a big help! But since then, I’ve done enough comparison shopping to know where to find the best deals  (around here, Sam’s Club)  and we just don’t want to eat the processed foods anymore.  We have been eating most of our vegetables from Provident Organic Farms CSA or from our

Vincent learning to Vaccume

"I love vaccuming!" said Vincent! No really that's what he said!

own garden, and this year from “Sharron’s Natural Gardens”.  The Processed foods that come with AFM  taste so salty that we can’t  really eat them!  Also their cuts of chicken come so badly mangled that they are only good for making soup.  One good thing about living on the Eastern Shore is that chicken is very cheap! Until we have our new “Chicken Tractor” (a portable coop) built and we can raise more of our own meat, we will be taking advantage of the $0.88 a lb roasters at Sams Club, and the $0.95 a lb chicken thighs.  We are also considering raising our own pigs.  I’ve begun reading “Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs”.   The nice thing about being a part of the Transitional Movement is that over night progress is not expected…. and I’m proud to say that in this time of “economic re-evaluation” (aka Resession) we have been eating more local home cooked organic foods than we ever have in our entire lives!

A Slow Foods Affirmation by Liz La Posta

Sharing a meal is a sacred act of fellowship with our family and loved ones,
Eating is a sacred act of communion with the Earth,
Cooking is the sacred act of preparing food for a delicious meal,
Farming is the sacred act by which we grow the food that we cook, eat, and share,
joining our labors  with the abundance of Mother Nature to sustain ourselves.
The distractions that remove this awareness from our everyday lives are the true inconvenience.
-Liz La Posta

Cookbooks for Localvores, Slowfoodies, and Gardeners

I think the biggest barrier to people eating locally grown food is that we have forgotten how to cook! There are several cookbooks that focus on cooking from the garden, and here are the two I’ve gotten my hands on:

Simply in Season published by World Community Cookbooks is the book recommended by my CSA, Provident Organic Farms. When you join the CSA the first year, you also purchase this cookbook, and it’s been a real inspiration! It’s organized by season, and color coded so you can flip to the right seaon easily. The main veggie ingredients are listed on the sides in bold print, so it’s very easy to find what your looking for.  There is also an “All Seasons” section for cooking beans and breads with several make ahead mix recipes. Many recipes are vegetarian, but there are meat dishes as well, so something for everyone.  Each recipe has a little spiritual story that goes with it, that relates to food and our connection to the divine, from a Christian point of view, but as a Unitarian Universalist,  I can easily translate into something I’m more comfortable with.  At the web site, there is an intergenerational study guide for use in a church or Sunday School setting, which I am going to look into more.

The Greenthumb Cook Book by Anne Moyer is a new book my mom found for me used. I think it’s out of print, but you might find it at www.paperbackswap.com. or ebay.   It’s organized by vegetable in alphabetical order, and features 61 different vegetables.  I’m looking forward to exploring it this growing season!

And last, but not least, my favorite online cookbook is Recipezaar! They have an excellent search engine where you can search for the ingredients you want or don’t want, and special things like crockpot cooking, or even “make ahead” meals. I listed my burrito recipe there, check it out! The recipes there also print out very nice. I have mine in a three ring binder.

And if you are still having trouble finding local food, don’t forget Local Harvest!

Say No to Plumping!

Groups seek label changes for injected chickens

If you buy chicken meat in the store, as I still do  (Remember the chickens as meat are a work in progress for me, eggs first.)  you might notice that most of it is “plumped” or injected with broth, which is bad because it increases the amount of sodium and it increases the weight which increases price.  Currently the practice of “plumping” is viewed as “natural” and plumped meats can be labeled “100% natural” when it most obviously is not.  Groups are trying to change the labeling rules to exclude plumping from “100% natural meat”.  You can support such groups by joining the Face Book group “Say No To Plumping” and by signing this petition:  Say No To Plumping .

QH